Research Around the World (week 5 EC)

I explored the website: Early Childhood Australia http://earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au

Some current international research topics in Australia are the mental health of children, reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, developing policies to advocate for children, healthy eating and exercise for children and their families.

I found this website to be really fascinating. I like to study innovative educational systems. I have been impressed by the educational system in Australia for a while now.  The website was really easy to navigate.  I found so much interesting information. Some surprising insights I found were all the unique resources available for families and educators. I learned that the arts and play is a really important aspect of Australia’s educational system.

I loved the shop.  There were so many great products in the shop.  There were children’s books, books for families to help them with everything from helping kids to adjust to school to helping them to sleep well at night.  There were lots of videos to watch. There’s a blog and there are even webinars. Australia is very focused on getting parents involved and there are books and media that support that.

I could spend days exploring this website. Another great area of noteworthy information was WebWatch. I reviewed past issues and I learned that Australia is committed to furthering funding of early childhood programs.  Also, that parents value quality over affordability and there is talk of recognizing underpayment to early childcare professionals.

I was really fascinated by this website and the action and movement that is in effect in Australia’s school system.  They are a great resource to countries would are struggling to create a framework for how to effect change.  I would love for the US to adopt the ideas and materials on this website.  It is quite impressive, in my opinion.

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My Personal Research Journey (week 2 EC)

The topic I chose for the simulation is that of childhood poverty.  As I learned of the issues and trends in early childhood, what struck me the most was the affect of poverty on children.  I had no idea how that so many children were living in poverty.  I believe the statistic was 1 in 2.  I chose this topic because it seemed to me to be one of the largest issue we are facing in the US.  I was curious about what was being done to correct this issue. I also saw how it was tied into the matter of immigration.  I feel childhood poverty is a top priority and I would like to explore possible solutions to this very complex issue. My personal experience with this simulation process has been interesting. I have learned a lot about children’s brains, trauma and some innovative ideas in the area brain development.  My favorite resource is Harvard’s Center On the Developing Child.  I have learned a lot about affects of stress on children’s brains.  I really think we must become more comfortable with the word trauma and how we define it.  I believe most children have been traumatized in someway however, I believe we are afraid to use the word trauma. By becoming comfortable with the word trauma, we can begin to address its affects on children and we can stop re-traumatizing them.  If poverty is affecting a child’s brain then I believe it is a trauma. I have really enjoyed reading the course text: Doing Early Childhood Research and exploring the glossary. Some new insights I learned was that the most important research is that which was conducted by scholars.  I recognized that access to scholarly libraries is extremely valuable. I learned that doing research outside of a university setting is expensive. The cost of various journals, articles and reports is extensive.  Learning about how research is conducted and the importance of research performed ethically has been important. I look forward to the coming weeks as my discoveries unfold.

Research that benefits children and families -Uplifting Stories (week 3 EC)

My favorite example of the effects of research on children and/or families was that of Beth Babcock, the CEO of the non-profit Crittenton’s Women’s Union. I saw a Ted talk that gave me such an enormous feeling of hope.  In the video, Beth spoke of working with women through her non-profit and seeing extreme changes in these women who have felt defeated for far too long.  Many of these women were single mothers with little to no education beyond a GED or high school diploma and living below the poverty line.

By using some innovative ideas, coaching and technology, many women in her non-profit went on to enroll in college, finish school, retain housing and begin careers earning $45,000 to $50,000 a year.  These women suffered from the trauma of poverty and may have even suffered many other traumas.  Beth states that the cognitive brain games that the women played may have helped to rewire these women’s brains.  She called it “brain science scaffolding”.

This positively affected many women.  The website for this organization is http://liveworkthrive.org  The video link for Beth Babcock’s Ted talk can be viewed here:  http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/06/can-brain-science-help-lift-people-out-of-poverty

I suspect that the brain games might be those of the website http://luminosity.com and I am interested in exploring deeper into the science and research of luminosity as well.

Issues and trends final blog post

For this final post, I am considering three consequences about learning about international early childhood education. I suppose on consequence could be jealousy over benefits and conditions. For example in Luxembourg teachers are paid up to $100k a year.  The US falls in 12th place capping at about $47,000.  

Another consequence could be aggravation over test scores and rankings of schools in other countries.  Finland and South Korea are at the very top of the list. The US in in 17th place.  A third consequence could be frustration with our current education system in the US and the scramble to fix all of our problems and comparing other aspects of the US education system to international school systems. A bonus consequence could be sadness regarding the state of school systems in developing countries and the millions of women who are being stripped of their human right to get an education.

One goal for the field related to international awareness of issues and trends and the spirit of collegial relations would be to collaborate to find more creative ways to provide access to education for women in rural areas around the globe.  Mobile learning was a great idea but there were issues near rural areas where there were poor technological infrastructures. This is an area of opportunity and innovation is needed for success. 

Getting to Know Your International Contacts—Part 3 / Gender Inequality bridging the gap

One insight I gained was that in some parts of the world, girls are being denied education. This is an issue I was not aware of.  I don’t think that I understood that the need was so great. The statistics were the following:

  • 31 million girls of primary school age are out of school. Of these 17 million are expected never to enter school. There are 4 million fewer boys than girls out of school.
  • Three countries have over a million girls not in school: In Nigeria there are almost five and a half million, Pakistan, over three million, and in Ethiopia, over one million girls out of school.
  • There are also 34 million female adolescents out of school, missing out on the chance to learn vital skills for work and life.

This is astounding to me. Funding is needed to help build schools and to provide books, supplies and teachers. Here is a link to Oprah’s school for girls which accepts donations: http://www.owla.co.za/ This is one way we can help make a difference. I have a much clearer understanding of how educating girls helps close gender inequality gaps. It also gives women the independence to earn a living and provide for their families.

Another insight I gained was that of technology being used to help provide girls with education in developing nations like Asia, Latin American and the Arab world. Mobile devices have grown in popularity worldwide and is a tool currently being used to help empower girls and help educate them. I learned of this via a link to iTunes U. The audio presentation said that using a mobile phone is a popular way to educate girls. I must admit that I found this interesting. I would not prefer to study via my mobile phone but I suppose it would depend on if the lesson was easy to see and navigate on my phone.  The podcast didn’t go into detail about the format of the lessons and if they were like interactive games or special app. Nonetheless, I thought it was interesting to know that this was happening as I was not aware.

The link to iTunes U is under “related services”.  The title of the podcast was “the future of mobile learning”.

The last insight I gained was from my third and final resource, a podcast titled, “UNESCO initiative related to the education of girls and women.  In this podcast, I learned of the global partnerships by large corporations and various nations. I gained a a deeper understanding of how long girls being educated has been an issue.  My understanding is that 2/3 of the population that is illiterate around the world are women.  Education for women is a basic human right that is being violated. Discrimination is a major issue, however; other barriers are cultural, political, religious, geographical and the general attitude of the women in the area, according to the podcast.

Sharing Resources: Newsletters, links and information

I followed some links on the Center on The Developing Child website for Harvard University.  I was lead to Boston’s NPR radio station 90.9 WBUR and a blog and TedX video entitled, “Can brain science help lift people of of poverty?”  It was the most fascinating thing I have seen in a long time and I love Ted talks and TedX.

Video Link~   http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/06/can-brain-science-help-lift-people-out-of-poverty

In the video, Beth Babcock, the CEO of the non-profit Crittenton’s Women’s Union shares about what her organization has discovered on how to break the cycle of poverty. The website for her organization is http://www.liveworkthrive.org/

In her organization, she works with impoverished women, many of them mothers whom have little education are struggling to pay rent. Her program provides coaching one on one along with cognitive development training that sounded a lot like what I’ve seen on those commercials for lumosity.com. Babcock explained that poverty affects “brain circuitry biologically”.  Basically, the brain gets overloaded and compromises decision making.  This causes the wiring of the brain to be built differently.  This means that poverty is compromising the parts of the brain that is most needed to be successful in life, the “executive functioning of the brain”, Beth says. The good news is that science shows that you can rewire the brain over time through memory and other cognitive games.  These games provide “brain science scaffolding.”  This has been found to work on people with post traumatic brain disorders.  It seemed to work well with the women in her organization. These women went on to finish college faster than average.  They were able to attain jobs that paid $45k to $50k  and retain housing.  It sounded really promising to me. I felt encouraged to sign in and play a few brain games.

Next, I searched the section of activities on the Center on The Developing Child and learned about the Global Children Initiatives. The activities are broken down into three domains: early childhood development, mental health and children in conflict and crisis situations.  This initiative provides a platform for students and faculty to come together and be the thought leaders on the cusp of major developments  and breakthroughs around the world.  Each domain has opportunities for innovation and collaborations to help impact in places like Shanghai, Rwanda, Trinidad, Tobago, Haiti, Barbados, Suriname and Chile. These collaborations are happening with individual researchers, policymakers, institutions and scientists. This knowledge is being gathered and shared in a way that will be most effective.

Some examples are :

1)  Piloting assessments to measure child development outcomes linked to malaria control strategies in Zambia (Early Childhood Development)

2) Developing and evaluating family-based strategies to prevent mental health problems in children affected by HIV/AIDS in Rwanda (Mental Health)

3) Bringing the science of child development into strategies for addressing acute malnutrition. (Children and Crisis)

The newsletters are archived on under news & events. The most recent newsletter leads to a video on Using Science to coach caregivers.  This video goes into detail about a program called find that conducts home visits and records interactions between a child and their parent.  This is a strength-based program that only addresses what parents are doing well and encourage more of the same interactions.  For example, naming or verbally reflecting back what a child is doing with excitement is a version of “serve & return” an interaction that shapes the architecture of the brain.  Another interaction is supporting and encouraging a behavior that the child is doing.

Here is the link to the video ~ http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources/stories_from_the_field/innovation_in_action/find_using_science_to_coach_caregivers/

The TedX talk on poverty was the most fascinating discovery I made on the website.  I think it is a major key that not mentioned by any self-help gurus or motivational speakers. It’s something I really want to explore and try out for my self. It was also interesting to read about how the collaborations were formed with researchers and policymakers. I was able to understand better how decisions are made.  It was clear to me that America’s brightest and best are the ones working to find solutions and implement change.

 

Getting to know International Contacts – Part 2

I have not received a response from an international contact so I decided to share some insights Harvard University’s, Global Children’s Initiative. I read an article called, “How persistent fear and anxiety
can affect young children’s learning, behavior and health.” I took away a lot of new insights from this article. This is a topic I am most interested. This course has been very insightful. This topic explains a lot and helps me to make sense of many things I have experienced. This article has been very valuable.

I have read before that toxic stress and maltreatment of children has a major affect that can affect a person into adulthood.  Also, in reading case studies in previous courses I learned that there are solutions to abuse particularly if treated early on. One insight I gained was the scope of how much abuse is happening in the U.S. 130 million children have witnessed intimate partner violence and 200 million children have suffered from sexual abuse alone. Two-thirds of the population has been sexually abused? This is astounding to me. This is a serious issue and we are not talking about it nearly enough.

The second insight I gained was that children learn fear from being abused. I read that although all children experience fear (ex. being afraid of the dark) as they grow older they learn the difference between what’s real and what’s make believe. They become anxious from being chronically exposed to threatening experiences. The article said some fears disappear with age while others do not and that the fear system activation can be prolonged and triggered by events that have small resemblances to a threatening event from a child’s past.  For example, children that perceive the world as a threatening place, a wide range of conditions can trigger anxious behavior that impairs their ability to learn and to interact socially with others. It says that these children become highly sensitive and develop a fear response to such things as a person’s angry face.

My third insight was that for the fears that are not passively forgotten, they must be unlearned.  Unlearning must happen after the brain has matured. As I have read in other classes the brain matures into the 20s.  This tells me that most of the country has been traumatized in their childhood in one way or another whether they acknowledge it or not.  Many of the traumatized children have grown into adults  and re living with the affects of early childhood abuse. It doesn’t surprise me that there are so many pharmaceuticals for anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD and more.  People are drinking, smoking cigarettes and asking for the legalization of marijuana so that they can self-medicate and bandage their pain. The solution is that fears and other responses to abuse can be unlearned. I would love to research more about this to find out what the process is to unlearn the affects of abuse in adulthood.

The links to the articles can be found here:

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources/articles_and_books/#2013

The article download is here: (scroll to page 8 to find the article)

http://bernardvanleer.org/Hidden-violence-Protecting-young-children-at-home